New artificial limb tech combines skeletal implants with mind control

You may never have heard of Max Ortiz Catalán, but his is a name worth knowing. The researcher and his team at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden are transforming the world of prosthetics. Working with a second team at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, the Chalmers team has created the ultimate artificial limb — one that mimics a real arm by connecting to the patient’s mind as well as his or her body

Catalán’s groundbreaking prosthetic device utilizes the technique of osseo-integration to provide patients with a comfortable-fitting prosthetic. He then adds cutting edge neuro-control to give them almost full control over the limb. Pioneered by Rickard Brånemark and his colleagues at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, osseo-integration takes a different approach to artificial limbs than traditional prosthetic design, which uses a suspension system to attach the arm to a patient. These suspension systems limit the movement of the limb, making it difficult for a patient to lift their arms beyond a certain point.  They also can be so uncomfortable that many patients stop wearing their artificial limb, losing any benefits they would gain from the device.

Osseo-integration overcomes these hurdles, providing mechanical stability by attaching directly to the patient’s bones. The technique uses a titanium anchor that is implanted into the bone, and following this, bone cells grow tightly around the titanium, enabling researchers to attach the prosthesis directly to the skeleton. This technique allows for the comfortable attachment of artificial limbs to the body. It also lets users move their arms in their full range of motion.

Related: This revolutionary 3D scanner digitizes your limbs to make custom braces and casts

With a comfortable limb in place, Max Ortiz Catalán then designed a neuro-control system that takes advantage of the patient’s existing nervous system and musculature. The team uses implanted neuromuscular electrodes that offer improved control over surface implants, which take longer to respond and are affected by external conditions.

Catalán’s implanted electrodes require little muscular effort, and allow patients to move their artificial limbs with both precision and speed.  The internal implants also are impervious to weather conditions, providing patients with the freedom to use their prosthesis outside in the bone-numbing cold of the winter and the searing heat of summer.

The first mind-and-body connected prosthetic device was implanted in a patient in 2013.  The system has remained stable for the past several years, providing both a full range of mechanical movement and offering extra features such as tactile feedback. In the future, the team hopes to integrate additional sensors into the prosthetic to further mimic the complex operations of a limb. They also want to expand their prosthetics beyond the arm and support other areas such as the leg.

Movies & TV

The colorful weirdness of Marvel’s The Eternals is coming in November 2020

Marvel Studios is already lining up the start of phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At SDCC today, more details were revealed about the next installment in the franchise, The Eternals.
Emerging Tech

6 questions we have about Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain interface technology

Elon Musk's Neuralink sounds like an exciting leap forward for human-computer relations, but brain implants raise the specter of Black Mirror-esque privacy invasions. We have a few questions about how this would work.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to start operating on human brains next year

Elon Musk shed more light on his Neuralink company on Tuesday, revealing new technology for brain surgery that would allow people with paralysis to use thoughts to control smartphones and computers. But that wasn't all ...
Smart Home

Sitting all day? The best office chairs for comfort and back support

Sitting at the office all day can be tough on more than just your back. Check out our picks for the best office chairs, whether you're in the market for something basic or a bit more luxurious.
Emerging Tech

Trippy VR demo reads your brain waves to create sleep-inducing visuals

Struggle to get to sleep? Researchers in Australia have been experimenting with ways to combine a person’s brain activity with virtual reality to create a kind of VR lullaby machine.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Starship can land on the moon by 2021

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said recently that he believes its Starship spacecraft can land on the moon by 2021, adding that he hopes his company can help to build a "permanently occupied lunar base" there.
Emerging Tech

Dark side of the moon: Why lunar landing conspiracies flourish online

Social media platforms seemed lovely at first, places to share dumb jokes and the minutiae of everyday life. Those sites have an underbelly, however, and have been a breeding ground for conspiracy theories.
Emerging Tech

Life after launch: Inside the massive effort to preserve NASA’s space artifacts

The Apollo 11 mission put a man on the moon, but NASA didn’t necessarily preserve every step of the process. Researchers are trying to rescue the history on Earth and on the moon.
Emerging Tech

Watch SpaceX’s parachute tests for its soon-to-be-manned Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX is currently developing its Crew Dragon capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Now, a new video shows the parachute systems for the capsules being tested.
Emerging Tech

A.I. cameras could help stomp out wildfires before they become disastrous

This summer marks one year since California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever. Could cutting-edge technology help avoid future incidents? One startup thinks so.
Emerging Tech

How pioneering pilot Jackie Cochran helped and hurt the Women in Space Program

Before Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space, Jackie Cochran funded the Women in Space Program. The pioneering woman pilot never realized her dream of venturing into space.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff! Here are all the moon missions happening in the next decade

The next 10 years are poised to be the most significant in lunar history in decades. What do we have to look forward to? Check out this handy guide to the coming decade of moon missions.
Emerging Tech

From the moon to mass production: 10 pieces of modern tech indebted to Apollo

This article is part of Apollo: A Lunar Legacy, a multi-part series that explores the technological advances behind Apollo 11, their influence on modern day, and what's next for the moon. You may have heard that freeze-dried food was…

50 years later, the first camera on the moon is still collecting lunar dust

The cameras aboard Apollo 11 captured some of history's most iconic images, including shots of Earth and footprints on the lunar surface. To commemorate the first moon landing, we look back at how Hasselblad's stripped shooters came to be.